New to caravanning – some helpful tips and links

Caravanning and camping has become extremely popular and a lot of people have decided to try it out and appear to be loving it. Which is great for the industry, tourism and people overall well being, making the most of this great hobby to get away on holiday and long weekends with family and friends.

The rise in popularity however has given rise to a mountain of questions. I won’t pretend to know all the answers but some research can help you greatly when you are just starting out and I will attempt to reduce some of that research by providing you with some links to get you started.

This article assumes you have purchased or are about to purchase a caravan and are new to it all. Most of the questions here are regular items on our facebook group caravanning

#1 must be – Does my driving licence allow me to tow any caravan? The short answer is no. but it is a bit more complicated than that. And the Government website has some great information.

A full car licence already lets you tow trailers weighing no more than 750kg. You can also tow heavier trailers with a car as long as the total weight of vehicle and trailer isn’t more than 3,500kg.

https://www.gov.uk/towing-rules

You will need to check your licence but If you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997 you will have a category B licence and you will be restricted to a combined MAM of 3,500kg and the trailer MAM must not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle. If this MAM is to be exceeded, an additional E Test pass is required. MAM is the limit on how much the vehicle can weigh when it’s loaded.

So to recap if you passed you test or after 1 January 1997 you cannot exceed 3,500kg. Category B requires a combined weight (GVW + MTPLM) up to 3,500kg. The B+E test will be needed to tow over 3,500kg combined weight.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club runs a training course to obtain your B+E. https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/advice-and-training/training-courses/b-e-training-courses/ You can of course look for other providers of which there are many.

The course gives you a comprehensive overview of what and how to tow, plus reversing exercises and driving practice.

At the end of the course, you can take the B+E test, and you’ll be ready to tow a trailer of up to 3500kg.

The best place to get the information about licences is https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car

#2 Do I need towing mirrors? Short answer is yes, this is an on going question and people have very many different ideas, some say if they are towing with say a large 4X4 that is wider than the caravan they don’t require them but the simple truth is you must use them, it is the law.

You must have an adequate view of the road behind you.
Fit suitable towing mirrors if your trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of your car.
You can be fined up to £1,000 and get 3 penalty points for towing without proper towing mirrors

https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car/trailer-and-towing-equipment

#3 Can my car tow this or that caravan? To safely answer this people need to know a lot of information, you cannot assume a 4×4 can tow anything! conversely some estate and salon cars can tow more than you might expect. Some caravans may look big but are manufatured to be lightweight! There are so many variations.

All I can say is that you need to research and check your car and caravan combination on one of the matching sites to give you a good indication as to your outfit’s match. https://towcar.info/ has been around a long time and has a huge database of caravans and cars. The https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/ has a matching service which is free to members. Finally but not least is https://www.towsafe.co.uk/consumer/loginCsumer.asp The original car/caravan matching service.

Safety At the end of the day you want to go away on holiday and enjoy yourselves so just be sensible, do your research and use your common sense. Here are my tips.

Before you even think about going away

  • Make sure you have had your caravan serviced, you have gas appliances and they must be serviced/checked by a gas safe engineer. You have brakes, chassis, tyres, spare tyre, break away cable, hitch, lights and electrics etc that must be checked and safe. A good caravan service engineer will check everything and give you peace of mind and make sure you and your family are safe. They will also make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.

Check your tyres on the caravan, pressure and age! a caravans tyre tread always look good but remember they sit for long periods with all that weight on them.

Caravan tyres should be replace every 5 years regardless of mileage and should never be used after 7 years.

Before you set off

  • Check your weight, what are you carrying, is it to much, do I need it?
  • Check how you have loaded the caravan, heavy at the bottom over the axle. Be careful if you have a fixed bed, the area underneath is not for storage while travelling. Additonal weight at the rear can have extreme affects if your caravan starts to snake!
  • Check all cuboards and loose items are secured. Don’t leave anything heavy loose in the caravan that would add to your weight if your caravan started to snake.
  • Check your caravan and car tyre pressures.
  • Check your hitch friction pads and break away cable. Make sure you remember to attached the break away cable.
  • Check your gas is off at the bottle/s and is secure.

Before you pull away

  • Check you have raised your caravan steadies
  • Check you have shut and locked all windows, roof lights and cuboards inside and out. Plus the main door
  • Check you have engaged the hitch fully
  • Check you have attached the break away cable
  • Check you have raised and secured the jockey wheel
  • Check you have released the handbrake
  • Check all your lights, car and caravan
  • Check you have released the motor mover if fitted
  • Check you have fitted your towing mirrors and adjusted them accordingly.
  • Check you know your destination and if using a sat nav make sure the campsite you are visiting doesn’t have an alternative route!

Drive away slowly and get a feel for the caravan, you are on holiday and there is no rush!

When leaving the campsite

  • Check you have drained your water tanks and toilet
  • Check you have everything disconnected
  • Check you have paid for your stay 🙂
  • Repeat all of “Before you pull away” believe me you will soon get into a habit

If you are a family with children make you have the right amount, to few or to many are both bad 🙂

Remember to enjoy yourselves, be safe and be on holiday!

Useful links

https://www.towsafe.co.uk/

https://towcar.info/

https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/

https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/

https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car

https://www.facebook.com/groups/caravanningcamping/

https://www.touringtenting.co.uk/ Our campsite directory

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